Nature

Ancient Pollen Proves Prehistoric Georgians Used Wine in Rituals

red grape vineyard at sunset
Ancient pollen discovered by researchers has proven that wine was used in ancient Georgian rituals.

Georgia (the country, not the state) has wine traditions that date back to prehistory. Thanks to evidence discovered in the summer of 2015 by archeologist form Georgia and Italy, we now know that Georgians have been using wine in rituals for at least 5,000 years.

Archeologists discovered two animal-shaped drinking vessels that still contained microscopic grains from grape pollen, meaning that the vessels once contained wine. The site belonged to people of the Kura-Araxes culture and may have been a ritual site. To this day, wine is a big part of Georgian feats, with ritualized toasts made with wine drunk from animal horns. It seems possible that the animal shaped vessels were used to offer wine to the gods or for communal drinking during the ritual.

The vessels were found in the remains of a square room with rounded corners and a burnt floor, signs that it may have been specially designed, and used for, ritual purposes. What that ritual was and what it was designed to honor is probably impossible to know, but we can tell that wine was involved.

The Kura-Araxes culture began in the Southern Caucasus, and was the only culture from that region to spread out into what is now Iran and Palestine. The culture flourished in the latter part of the fourth and first half of the third millennium BCE, so about 3,500 to 2,500 years ago. That’s a pretty long time for any culture to stick around, so it’s no wonder that it managed to spread to other parts of the world.

One can’t help but wonder if wine had something to do with that. Wine has been important to many cultures in Eurasia, and while this isn’t the oldest example of wine in the world, or even in Georgia, it does give us an idea of at least how long wine has been used in religious observations.

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